For the next few years, a cheap diesel car could still be a good investment. The worst emissions problems have been resolved, and types of diesel offer good fuel economy. But, be prepared for your car to be less useful in future.
For a long time, diesel cars were seen as the best vehicles to get. They offered good fuel economy and were originally praised for their lower carbon dioxide emissions. Now, it’s known that diesel emissions are actually more harmful than petrol.
If you find a diesel car reduced due to emissions, is it really a great deal?
Read on to find out more about whether a cheap diesel is a purchase worth making.
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Diesel cars hit the peak of popularity in the early to mid-2010s. At that time, they were praised for low levels of carbon dioxide in their emissions. Types of diesel were known for great fuel economy, making them very cheap to run.
In 2014, the diesel emissions scandal changed views of diesel cars. Researchers discovered that diesel emissions were actually far worse than believed. Many diesel cars weren’t meeting the strict emissions limits in the US and Europe. In fact, manufacturers installed defeat devices that deliberately cheated through emissions tests.
Of particular concern were nitrogen oxide emissions, found to be up to 40% higher in diesel cars than previously thought. Nitrogen oxide is a harmful greenhouse gas that we don’t want in the air at high levels.
Nitrogen oxide can cause respiratory problems, eye problems and a higher risk of cancer. It can also damage the ozone layer and contribute to premature death. Whilst nitrogen oxide levels have been controlled by emissions standards, many diesel cars were producing much more whilst test results were manipulated.
By 2015, less than 50% of new cars were diesel vehicles. By 2018, this had dropped to 32% of new registrations.
Diesel vehicles have been subject to recalls if they were fitted with defeat devices that meant that their true emissions had been masked.
Whilst new diesel cars are now a lot less popular than their petrol counterparts; it’s also true that second-hand diesel have held their value fairly well. Second-hand buyers don’t usually want a car that’s going to last for many years, so they’re typically happier to buy a diesel for short-term use if the price is right.
It remains true that diesel cars can be very cheap to run. They still offer impressive power coupled with great fuel economy. However, it’s now known that diesel emissions are a lot more harmful than consumers were originally led to believe. As a result, many cities are banning diesel cars from their borders.
Euro 6 is the current diesel emissions standard in the UK. The first Euro 6 diesel cars were registered in 2014. Though you can still drive older diesel cars, your routes might be limited in future.
In London, you’ll be fined £12.50 in the Ultra Low Emissions Zone if your diesel car isn’t Euro 6. From 2022 in Paris, diesel cars must be at least Euro 4. By 2024, no diesel cars will be able to enter Paris city borders. To drive in Amsterdam or Barcelona, diesel cars must be at least Euro 4. Berlin has a Diesel Euro 6 Low Emission Zone, so cars that aren’t Euro 6 can’t drive on certain roads in the city.
Slowly, diesel cars are being phased out and will be allowed in fewer cities. It’s worth checking where you plan to drive, and seeing what rules are in place. The Urban Access Regulations in Europe website can help you with your research.
If you’ve found a diesel car being sold at a great price, you might decide that buying is worthwhile. If you don’t tend to drive in larger cities, a second-hand diesel could be perfect. Diesel cars are cheap to run, as long as they’re still in good condition. Check the overall maintenance level of any diesel car before purchase.
If you travel a lot or live or work in a city, a diesel car might not be worthwhile. You might find that your driving routes or limited, or that the costs of emissions zone charges soon outweigh the savings you’ll make through better fuel economy.
Much of your decision will need to be based on your own driving habits. How likely are you to drive into London, or want to take your car through Paris streets? If you only stick to your local area, then you may find diesel to be a better option.
After the diesel emissions scandal, many diesel cars were recalled. These needed adjustments to deactivate their defeat devices. Some cars may have been fine-tuned to reduce their levels of emissions, whilst others might have higher emissions that moved them into different categories.
Though a large proportion of diesel cars have been recalled since 2014, many drivers will not have made an effort to take their car into a workshop. You can check if outstanding recalls apply to any car you plan to buy.
To look for recalls, have the car’s VIN to hand. You can use the VIN to check online. Visit the car manufacturer’s website, and look for diesel recall information. You’ll be able to enter the VIN to see if any car has been recalled.
A vehicle recall won’t cost extra money – the adjustments are covered by the manufacturer – though you should be prepared to take your car to a workshop and leave it there whilst work carried out.
Some people are reducing the cost of diesel cars because they want to get rid of them quickly. They know that diesel cars are becoming less popular and will be less useful in future. If you can find a diesel car reduced due to emissions, you may find that you’ve got a great deal.
Not all diesel cars are reducing in price, however. As the number of diesel cars on the road begins to decrease, these fuel-efficient and cheap-to-run cars are becoming a sought-after rarity. So, overall diesel car prices might not drop as much as you’d expect.
Right now, we’re in very interesting times for diesel cars. For some, these vehicles are obsolete and something not even worth considering. For others, diesel cars are in a last-chance situation and worth snapping up whilst they’re around, in order to save money on fuel costs.
To decide if you should buy a diesel car reduced due to emissions, you’ll need to spend a lot of time thinking about the balance of benefits and costs. Are you getting a bargain to brag about or a car that you can’t take wherever you want?
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